A June Jaunt

It was in beautiful Lum’s Pond State Park (DE) that we made a few discoveries. First, if you wrap a sprained ankle tightly, and securely lace up your hiking boots, you can actually hobble several miles without pain; slight discomfort, but no pain. We also discovered that a 3-1/2 month old Lab has more stored energy than uranium or plutonium. We were worried about a long hike being “too much” for our pup. It turns to have been an unfounded concern. Gypsy has an endless ‘get-up-and-go’ capacity. Finally, we learned that our pup’s webbed feet are in stellar working order. She can swim with the big dogs! She found herself in-over-her-head. She thrashed around, wildly waving her front paws until she settled into a paddling motion.

If you are a dog-lover, I highly recommend checking out the Dog Park at Lum’s Pond. There are long, leash-free trails, fields and beaches for the pooches to explore. I am a huge fan because I have learned that a tired puppy is a good puppy.

After placing a very tired dog into her kennel, we ventured out to explore the C & D Canal Recreational Trail. The bike trail is paved and the scenery is unbeatable. The ride is basically flat, with very few gear changes needed. You can travel between Chesapeake City, MD and Delaware City, DE. Both are charming, waterfront towns that are worth a visit.

Kayaking Janes Island

Janes Island State Park, near Crisfield, Maryland is a kayaking heaven! There are numerous, marked, water trails and a magnificent beach that can only be reached via watercraft.

We got Gypsy fitted for a life vest and plopped her down in between us in a tandem kayak. She gave me that suspicious look, the one that let’s you know that her apprehension is in high gear. She has an intrinsic distrust where we are concerned. It is not totally unwarranted. She writhed and wiggled and let out a mournful, high-pitched howl or two. She thrashed and squirmed and tried to jump overboard. Thank goodness her life preserver came equipped with a handle.

She eventually settled in between my feet and resigned herself to the inevitable.

“What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around – that’s their job.” – George Carlin

This dog romped and played and jumped waves. She tangled with tall grasses and got completely covered in sand. Lying around was not on the agenda.

Those of you who follow, or on occasion, read this blog are wondering why things are going so smoothly. Our adventures are typically tales of ill fortune. Once again, you will not be let down.

Escaping the Cicadas was something we hoped to accomplish. Our back yard is swimming in those suckers.

We did not have the incessant drone of loud locust, instead we were inundated with deer flies. They bite. It hurts. Campers that walked by our site were wildly waving and gyrating like those huge, wacky, waving, inflatable, arm-flailing tube men that you see in front of tire stores.

We bathed in DEET, which only helped a little bit.

So, we thought we would leave Janes Island State Park for the day, and would hike at nearby Pocomoke River State Park…

Welcome to the tick capital of the world.

Our brilliant idea to escape the deer flies, led us to lone star tick country. Yep, somewhere along the way, Gypsy stepped into a tick nest. We were perfectly unsuspecting until we got her back to the RV. I then saw what I thought was a tick on her face. I removed it, but then saw more on her ears, and her paws, and her belly, and her tail end. I wrestled with her, and carefully removed both adult and tiny, nymph ticks. The infestation was brutal.

I felt an urgent need to shower after that ordeal, and guess who discovered multiple embedded ticks when she disrobed? Yes! Me! No good deed goes unpunished.

Gypsy now has a new, stronger, vet recommended tick medicine and Geoff (who did not escape the tick invasion) and I are taking meds for the prevention of Lymes disease. <sigh>

Stay tuned for the next debacle…


The continued misadventures of May

Trailblazer in training

Finally, an opportunity for a weekend escape! We headed to beautiful Cooper’s Rock State Park in West Virginia for a weekend of fun and frivolity with family. With Covid vaccinations completed, we rolled, unmasked, towards our next great adventure. We had big plans for turning our 3-month-old Labrador into a trail guide, which we knew would be a tad challenging since, simply taking her for a walk, entails dragging her around the neighborhood. We got Gypsy settled into her soft-sided crate for a ramble down the road. (This actually worked quite well for making her feel safe, while containing her movement.) At this juncture we were carefree, cock-eyed optimists.

Our exuberance began to fade when we approached our campsite. The one-way streets within the camping loop made it impossible to approach our site at an angle that would allow us to back in. After circling around and narrowly missing a ravine, we were able to get situated well enough that we could begin to back in. As we engaged reverse, we could feel the tow bar spear the hill behind us. It was as if our motorhome was harpooning a whale. We had to disassemble the towing mechanism in order to back in to the site. Let me rephrase that. My husband had to detach the whole mess because I had to hold on to a puppy who was having intermittent bursts of insane energy while trying to eat gravel, twigs, pinecones, weeds and insects.

It was 90 degrees outside and the pollen count was out of control. My poor husband sneezed, wheezed, coughed and continually rubbed his red eyes. He went inside to escape the heat only to discover that the brand new, under original warranty, air conditioner did not work. He continued to grapple with his allergies, and Gypsy continued to chomp on charred wood and gobble up gravel.

Almost Heaven, West Virginia.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Gypsy did extremely well on the trails but much preferred being unleashed. Fortunately, the foot traffic was light and we were able to let her run free for a while. She leapt into streams, rolled in mud, and did her best Tazmanian Devil impersonation.

She was filthy, but a tired puppy is a good puppy.

I was determined to find the best hiking trails before my sister and my daughter arrived. We were going to spend the day in the great outdoors, getting some exercise and and enjoying the elevation changes, the vistas, and all of nature’s beauty. I laced up my trail running shoes, and a mile into my run I stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle. I knew when I heard the CRACK that the end result would not be good. I limped, gingerly, back to the RV, and immediately drove to an urgent care center.

On the positive side, we now have a new AC unit and (for the time being) the warranty work on Big Bertha is complete. The injury is merely an impediment. It may temporarily slow me down, but I will not be stopped. Too many roads to travel.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

The Gypsy Life

Our 1st hike through Tuckahoe State Park

May 9, 2021

Happy Mother’s Day.

I’m a mom, a step-mom, and a grand-mom. Now, I am a DOG-MOM. My ‘dog-ter’ is an 11-week old Labrador, aptly named Gypsy because she is being raised to be a nomad. I have visions of a loving, cooperative, camping companion. I harbor fantasies of an obedient, spirited hiking hound. We are working on it but I have to become more pragmatic about my expectations. Let’s just say we have a long way to go.

Our motorhome (Big Bertha) recently had some “bugs” worked out, and after a service hiatus at the RV dealership, is back on the road. We took her to Tuckahoe State Park on Maryland’s Eastern Shore this weekend. The campground is beautiful. All sites are wooded and offer privacy, spaciousness and easy access to trailheads. Go, if you get the opportunity.

Little Pup. Big World.

Gypsy has a voracious appetite. She would do anything for food. This is good because we have an edge in the training department. This is also BAD because she will attempt to eat ANYTHING. I had to clear our site of sticks and holly leaves before tethering her, but it was impossible to remove all of the gravel. I screeched “leave it” at least sixty times per hour, and opened her little jaw every five minutes to remove pebbles, leaves and other unidentified debris.

My fingers look like the bottom of a colander. Puppy teeth are lethal. If you see her teeth, it looks like a porcupine has taken up residence in her mouth.

So far, leash training has been a complete bust. Gypsy has a pronounced case of ADD. She is wary of cars, bicycles, lawnmowers, large dogs, blowing leaves and most people. Staying focused enough to walk 10 yards at a time is taxing. I tempt her with treats, cajole her with compliments and lead her with (mostly) gentle tugs. Okay, sometimes I semi-drag her. Naturally, I was anticipating an aggravating 1st hiking experience. Surprise! Although she had to stop to sniff every, single tree, she eagerly pranced down the trail, managing a few miles without any strain. I was relieved. Maybe we will have that hiking hound after all.

Lake Trail at Tuckahoe State Park

Weather, at least for me, sets the mood for camping adventures. If it is warm and sunny, I am happy & eager to explore. If it is cloudy and cold, I am doing my best to endure. I will bundle up and hover over a campfire. I’m a good sport.

If it’s rainy and cold, my inner, malignant spirit can be tamed with a good book, a glass of wine, or a Netflix saga. At least that used to work. Now, I am the mother of a Nipsy Gypsy.

It poured this weekend. I mean poured. Rain pelted against the camper like machine gun fire. Gypsy added to the din. When placed in her crate she began to sing herself to sleep. It was a tune that was reminiscent of a record played at the wrong speed, or fingernails on a chalkboard. Plus, she still has a baby bladder. Taking her out at midnight (and 3:30 a.m.) in the rain, with a flashlight, through puddles was painful.

All things considered, night time rain is preferable to daytime rain. Books, games and TV shows are now limited to 3-minute intervals. Bertha is big, thus her moniker. Yet, she is not big enough to play hide-the-chew-toy for a prolonged time. Good weather = sanity.

Lap Dog Enabler

We did have some intermittent breaks in the weather. Thank God.

I am determined to train this precious puppy to be a well behaved, obedient, sidekick that will share my love of exploration. My husband is intent on creating the world’s most spoiled (and largest) lap dog.

We survived our fist caravan junket with Gypsy. In two weeks, we will attempt another road warrior weekend.

Stay posted.

The return of Big Bertha

April 30, 2021

Big Bertha is back home! She is in the driveway, quickly developing a patina of pollen and amassing heaps of helicopter seeds. Although some warranty work still remains, the critical things have been taken care of. The cosmetic things will have to wait. We have some important work to do before an upcoming, short, weekend jaunt.

“Gypsies have no boundaries. They have primitive, untamed personalities and ‘that look in their eyes.”
― Karl Wiggins

If you have not, yet, had the pleasure, please meet Gypsy. We had an urge to share our love for a nomadic lifestyle with a faithful friend and hiking companion.

Gypsy is all lab. She is curious, energetic, mischievous, demanding, and the cutest ball of fur ever.

She is our love, our challenge, our entertainment, our exercise routine and our alarm clock.

In truth, we have been blessed with a pup who has proven relatively easy to train. So far. Maybe we lucked out, or maybe our planets just happen to be properly aligned at the moment.

  • We anticipated that there would be a hurdle or two in introducing Gypsy to the RV. Our housebreaking efforts have been miraculously successful. But this home has wheels, and it smells different, and there are no sliding glass doors to stare out of.
  • Introducing Gypsy to Bertha, early in the game, was necessary if we hoped to avoid messy accidents, chomped up chairs, damaged dinettes, and crunched-upon cabinetry.
  • Because we are insane, we conducted a trial run. Yes, we slept in the driveway with the dog. Our neighbors question our stability.

We believe in crate training and Gypsy already sees her crate as her happy place. So, we moved it into the RV, and voila! She settled right down and slept without hysteria, howling or havoc of any kind.

Granted, we were standing still. Next step is to actually drive the motorhome with her in it.

I envision a puppy slip-sliding-away all over the floor, feasting on the furnishings, or worse, a nipping, nomad bounding like a Jackalope into the truck cab. We are formulating plans for how to best contain her in comfort while heading down the highway.

I’ll let you know how that all works out.

We will soon both be fully vaccinated, and able to do more RV rambling. Until that time, we will busy ourselves cheering for the best ball players around…..

At idle…. 4/19/21

Biding Big Bertha’s return.

As the Redbuds bloom, and the days draw longer, I become more painfully aware that the RV is still at the dealership, undergoing repair work. Like with anything new, we are working out the ‘bugs’ and making sure that Bertha is ready for the next extended excursion.

I’ve heard that patience is a virtue. I totally lack such high-mindedness. I am ready to roll.

The devil finds work for idle hands.

— Henry David Thoreau

I’m trying to keep my hands and my mind busy. Lord knows I do not need to encourage the devil. He is ever present on my left shoulder. Restlessness defines me.

My husband and I have done tons of yardwork, including draining and cleaning the pond. Frog spawn is odious. Nothing like great gobs of gelatinous, mini-eyeballs running through your fingers. I am a guardian angel to future amphibians.

And still, we were sitting on our hands…

Retirement is an adjustment. We are both so accustomed to life’s frenetic pace that slowing down is strangely strenuous. We envisioned relaxation, volumes of good literature, leisurely strolls and outdoor adventure. What we got was excessive empty hours.

Covid-19 has interfered greatly with enjoyable outings or volunteering opportunities.

Since idle hands are the devil’s workshop, we had to find a way to make productive use of our time at home.

A puppy is the ultimate distraction. ~ Philip Rosental

Meet Gypsy, the newest member of our caravan. We now have a way to use ALL of our free time until we can get the traveling show on the road again.

A puppy will put almost anything in her mouth; shoes, mulch, rugs, drawer handles, furniture, mown grass, fly swatters, and leashes are favorites. She much prefers table legs to toys. I believe that it is entirely possible to say “no” and offer distractions 1,440 times per day.

We asked for it, and even with puppy teeth punctures, it is the best choice ever.

Repaired Roof & Warranty Work

When life gives you fallen trees…

April 13, 2021

When a pine tree falls on your house, make campfire wood.

We did not expect to come home to a Ginko-covered garage after our maiden voyage in Big Bertha. The white pine that tumbled towards our home took half of a Ginko tree with it. The substantial deductible for the roof repair is a bit of a drag but, on the other hand, we will have sufficient outdoor firewood for our next RV journey. Yes, in spite of the number of setbacks on voyage number one, there will be a second excursion.

Rapid Response

I need to tip my hat to Charm City Roofers, who immediately evaluated the structural damage to our garage. They were professional, proficient and efficient in replacing shingles, siding, and gutters.

After a problematic trip, filled with mayhem and misadventure, it was a relief to have reliable repair work!

We are feeling a bit of a void. There is a big, empty parking space where Big Bertha generally sits.

Yet, her absence is endurable, as warranties are wonderful things. Bertha’s city water inlet is being replumbed. Her windshield is being resealed. Her various valves and vents are being readjusted.

Bertha is a land yacht; adventuring is a lifestyle choice, not an investment.

Our adventure to the west coast has been planned, and now the anticipation begins.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain, Great American Writer

Life in a Sherman Tank

March 28th / 29th

If you recall, it was windy when we arrived at Canaan Valley State Park in West Virginia, windy enough to rock the RV, even with the stabilizer jacks down. We tried to ignore it by watching a downloaded episode of Hinterland. As soon as the credits rolled, I said, “Let’s go stay in the parking lot, at least we won’t get crushed by one of these pulsating pines!”

To his credit, my husband went outside and surveyed the overhanging tree situation and declared us out of harm’s way. He said that there were no large branches overhead and no large trees that were likely to tumble down upon us. I was skeptical. I’m always skeptical but I was also thoroughly exhausted after my grueling 400-mile trek. So, I said my prayers, including a prayer to Attis, the Greek God of trees, and crawled reluctantly into bed. I took out my Kindle and tried to read myself to sleep. It was not working. I pulled my blanket over my head because everyone knows that a blanket pulled over your head will protect you from falling trees.

The sound was terrifying. WHOOSH, then, low whistle, then rattle, then tons of tiny twigs being hurled against the sides of the RV. Bang. Crash. Bang. I felt as if I were trying to sleep in a Sherman Tank whilst under enemy fire.

“WINTER PASSES AND ONE REMEMBERS ONE’S PERSEVERANCE.” – YOKO ONO

Perseverance. You’ve got that right, Yoko.

The winds had blown through and we thought that we were in the clear, and ready for an easy ride home.

Then the snow came. There was not much, but it was enough to turn the parking lots into a frost covered nightmare. Enough to cause panic about icy roads and skiing sideways, out of control, over the mountains, in an RV.

Icicles.

The gales had not completely subsided. With the wind chill factored in it was a balmy 15F. Everything was frozen.

The driver’s side door of the tow vehicle had not been completely shut during the night. I crawled in and sat on a cold, frosty seat. With a wet, cold posterior, I followed the RV to a spot where we could hook up the truck to the tow bars. There was a constant beeping coming from the truck and a dashboard display that said DOOR AJAR. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the mechanism that keeps the door closed, was frozen solid. After running the heat at full blast for 10 minutes, and thinking that we may never get back on the road, the door finally thawed and thankfully closed.

Harvesting the energy of wind.

A mobile home has a large profile, and like a boat with a fly bridge, the wind wants to change your course.

It is no small wonder that there were dozens of windmills atop West Virginia mountain ridges. The wind is plentiful, strong and unrelenting. I’ve had a death grip on the steering wheel long enough to cut of circulation to my fingertips.

I had a premonition.

As I yanked my blanket up over my head last night, I had visions of a tree falling on our home on wheels.

Surprise! The tree was actually falling on our garage at home!

This is the sight that greeted us after a 4,000 mile journey. What a crazy end to Big Bertha’s maiden voyage.

Was it all smooth sailing? Far from it, but there were valuable lessons learned along the way.

And now, to tackle the tree, and get a few roof repair recommendations….

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.— Robert Frost

Rain, rain, go away…

March 28, 2021

400 miles is a long way to go in my sporty, Subaru. It seems endless in a motorhome with a “toad” (tow vehicle) attached. Many miles coupled with a myriad of mountains is a challenge. Throw in copious cloudbursts and gusty winds and a challenge becomes an arduous adventure. We are learning that shorter distances between stops is a wiser choice.

West Virginia roads are either under construction, or are steep, narrow and filled with switchbacks. The scenery is spectacular, and perhaps worth battling the byways, but we won’t have the chance to enjoy it during this trip. The weather is atrocious and getting worse.

I cannot command winds and weather. ~Horatio Nelson

The winds are howling and the RV has rocked my husband to sleep. Lucky him. This swaying makes me feel as if I am at sea. I am watching tall timber all around me, dancing crazily with the clouds. I’ve been simultaneously typing and praying.

We have not yet eaten dinner. Getting the grill out would be foolish. I will have to rely on good, old fashioned ingenuity to come up with something edible, now that my husband is stirring.


There’s no place like home.

It’s definitely a night to stay inside. We are warm and dry and as cozy as one can be in gale force winds.

Another camper just pulled in. I somehow feel better about sharing this experience with other road weary travelers. Other crazies…

Well, it finally happened

March 27, 2021

The birds were singing, the sun was shining, we had good, 4-lane divided highway ahead, and we did not have to stop for fuel. All we needed to do was to take state roads for 15 miles, then we would be off and running to our next stop in Bardstown, Kentucky. Nothing was going to raise my anxiety level today. Until, we made a right hand turn onto a very narrow lane, and right before us was a large, orange, sign. ROAD CLOSED in 1 mile. Narrow does not adequately describe this street. It was a raised alley with ditches on either side. The only option for escape was a dirt driveway in front of a sketchy, double-wide trailer. Even that alternative was not workable unless we unhooked the tow vehicle in the middle of the road. I was terrified but felt a little giggle gurgle up in my chest.

While I backed the tow vehicle out of the way, my husband attempted to make a quick, several-point turn. I did not have time to blow the horn as he backed towards the ditch. The tow bars were sticking straight out behind the bumper. The RV looked like a knight, prepared to joust the hill behind it. It was a gentle bump into the vegetation. The tow bars emerged, completely covered in clods of dirt, grass, and dangling weeds. I did not know if it would still be functional but at that unlikely moment, that gurgling giggle turned into full blown, hysterical laughter.

I had faced my biggest fear and lived to laugh. My husband was not amused.

Fortunately, after removing soil and sumac, mud and milkweed; the tow bar proved to be dirty but undamaged. We reconnected the vehicles and moved on.

When the sun goes down, on my Old, Kentucky Home….

A golf course was not exactly what I expected to find at our next campsite. Instead of water views, I was gazing at golfers.

Good thing I wasn’t on the tee box. I would have hit a hook right into someone’s house trailer. I was prepared to duck, but did not hear “fore” one, single time.

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”
― Winston S. Churchill

Actually, our RV “Big Bertha” feels very at home here.

The campsite was rather cramped and more like caddyshack than a state park but it was a one night stay. No hiking here. I did walk to the park’s main attraction, which was the home of Judge Rowan, and the plantation that inspired Stephen Foster to write My Old Kentucky Home, the state song that is associated with the running of the Kentucky Derby.

About

I was a city kid. My playgrounds were parking lots. Until…

One day, my dad brought home a pop-up camper. We hitched the trailer to our trusty station wagon, loaded it with luggage, sleeping bags, flashlights and lanterns. Then, off we went to destinations unknown. It is when my love affair with mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and seas began.

Nature became my cathedral and I have worshipped in it ever since.

Now, as a retiree, I hope to marvel at and muddle through Mother Earth’s sanctuary on a regular basis.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

― John Muir